New report launches on the role of the Midlands and its cities in the British economy

Date posted: May 9, 2023
Leading independent think tank Centre for Cities has launched a new study – All cylinders: The role of the Midlands Engine in the British economy focusing on the region’s cities and how they could be key to boosting the regional and national economy.

In the context of the levelling up agenda and the government’s goal of growing the UK’s ‘innovation industries’, the report sets out to provide a study of the Midlands to better understand the geography of its economy and offer recommendations on increasing productivity.

Delving into the distinct roles of the cities, large towns, suburbs, urban hinterlands, and rural areas that make up this diverse region spanning from the East Coast to the Welsh border, the report defines the economy of the Midlands as ‘spiky’.

This refers to the way the economy of the Midlands is concentrated in and around its eight largest urban areas which, despite accounting for less than 10% of the region’s land area, are clusters for 53% of employment and 50% of output.

The report confirms the large role the Midlands plays in the UK economy, accounting for 13% of national output, and highlights the region’s strong foundations in manufacturing export industries. However, the report also estimates that the Midlands economy is £18 billion per year smaller than it should be, with its cities accounting for 89% of the output gap.

Such findings supports confirm the importance of strategies already underway in the region’s urban centres to capitalise on opportunities for economic growth, including investment in city centre transport and office space, and funding for essential skills development.

The report’s central message is the huge role the Midlands’ main urban centres have to play in closing that output gap. Outlining the opportunities for improvement, the report recommends focusing on:

  • Improving the skills of residents To rebalance the current situation where the Midlands Engine has a higher share of residents without qualifications and a lower share of graduates compared to the UK as a whole.
  • Making city centres more attractive places to do business Prioritising high-quality city centre office space that meets the needs of service exporters particularly, as the productivity in this sector is considerably below the British average.
  • Improving public transport infrastructure and density within the big cities Increasing commuting into Birmingham and Nottingham city centres relies not solely on the transport infrastructure itself but is also affected by their urban form. They have public transport networks that cover a comparable or greater physical area in 30 minutes compared to European cities of a similar population, but the density of the built environment in neighbourhoods with transport stops constrains the number of people who can live there.

See the full CfC report – All cylinders: The role of the Midlands Engine in the British economy


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